Adam Houghton discusses the stud career of Kingman, who looks set to re-establish his status as a top-class stallion after a couple of quieter years.
Kingman’s first crop to reach the racecourse in 2018 certainly wasn’t greeted with the same feverish anticipation which had surrounded the first two-year-olds by his Banstead Manor studmate Frankel two years earlier, but it’s fair to say that he too hit the ground running as a sire.
Like Frankel, Kingman’s first runner was a winner when Calyx (trained, like his sire, by John Gosden) made a successful debut, running away with a novice event at Newmarket by five lengths (Gosden had trained Frankel’s first runner Cunco, also a winner first-time-out). He also achieved the rare feat for a newcomer of recording a Timeform rating in excess of 100.
Calyx looked every inch a pattern performer in the making and, turned out just 10 days later in the Coventry Stakes, he duly took the step up in grade in his stride with another decisive success, beating the subsequent Phoenix Stakes winner Advertise by a length despite racing on the disadvantageous stand side.
Calyx proved to be just the first to appear from a highly promising first crop for Kingman which also included two other winners of note in the Khalid Abdullah colours, Sangarius, fourth in the Dewhurst Stakes after winning his first two starts, including a Listed race at Doncaster, and Headman, a colt from the family of Enable, who made a most impressive debut at Newcastle late in the year.
Kingman’s other good winners included the Andre Fabre-trained Persian King, who beat the subsequent Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Magna Grecia in the Autumn Stakes, and the Listed-winning fillies Poetry and Look Around.
After such a good start, Kingman’s fee was raised from £55,000 to £75,000 for 2019. His first runners conceived at that fee are the two-year-olds we see today, a group which could well have a star or two among them judged on recent results.
More on them shortly, but first it’s worth reflecting on the years immediately after Kingman’s early success with the likes of Calyx and Persian King. It certainly hasn’t been all plain sailing since he featured among the leading first-season sires in Britain and Ireland in 2018 (ranked third by number of winners and second by total prize money).
The early signs were good as Kingman’s first crop continued to make the headlines in 2019. Persian King won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains to become his sire’s first Group/Grade One winner, while King of Comedy very nearly doubled that tally when beaten just a neck in the St James’s Palace Stakes having previously won the Listed Heron Stakes.
Headman created an excellent impression when securing back-to-back Group Two victories in France, winning the Prix Eugene Adam and the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano, while Calyx (Pavilion Stakes), Nausha (Musidora Stakes) and Sangarius (Hampton Court Stakes) all won in Group Three company.
Calyx, who after the Coventry didn’t race again at two due to a bone injury, looked champion sprinter material when making a successful reappearance in the Pavilion, shooting clear in the final furlong to land the spoils by four lengths. However, he then met with defeat for the first time in the Sandy Lane Stakes before another injury curtailed his career.
Roseman is another member of that first crop who deserves a mention. After winning a Listed race at Newmarket on his final start as a three-year-old, he then took his form up another notch the following year when filling the runner-up spot in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes II Stakes, earning a Timeform rating of 125 which puts him right up there among Kingman’s best progeny.
That list is headed by Palace Pier, a member of Kingman’s second crop who was unbeaten in two starts as a two-year-old in 2019 and went on to win no fewer than five times at the top level, notably winning the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Prix Jacques le Marois as a three-year-old.
Trained by Gosden, Palace Pier was following in the footsteps of his sire who won the same two races back in 2014. Kingman was also successful in the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Sussex Stakes that year as he completed a Group One four-timer after suffering the only defeat of his illustrious career in the 2000 Guineas.
Whilst Kingman was retired to stud after a throat infection ruled him out of the rest of his three-year-old campaign, Palace Pier came back for more as a four-year-old and proved himself the best older miler in training with victories in the Lockinge Stakes, the Queen Anne Stakes and the Prix Jacques le Marois (for the second year in a row).
The other star performer in Kingman’s second crop was the Chad Brown-trained Domestic Spending, who became his sire’s third individual Group/Grade One winner when winning the Hollywood Derby in 2020. He wasn’t finished there either as he returned the following year to win the Turf Classic Stakes and the Manhattan Stakes.
The pick of the two-year-olds in Kingman’s second crop included Boomer, who won the Group Three Prestige Stakes, and the Listed winners Alligator Alley and Summer Romance.
Sinawann was Group Two-placed at two and later developed into a very smart performer, notably winning the Group Three Amethyst Stakes, while Kinross looked something out of the ordinary when making a winning debut at Newmarket at two. It took him a while to fulfil his promise, but he is now a fixture in pattern company and won the Group Two Lennox Stakes last year.
It might have taken some longer than others to flourish, but the Juddmonte team had already seen enough by the end of the 2019 campaign to be confident that in Kingman they had another top-class stallion on their hands, hence the decision to double his fee to £150,000 for 2020.
Incidentally, Kingman’s fee has remained the same for the last couple of years and in 2022 he ranked fourth among the most expensive sires in the world, behind only Dubawi (£250,000), Frankel (£200,000) and Into Mischief ($250,000/£185,000).
It’s lofty company indeed and the emphasis is on Kingman to keep churning out the results to prove that he belongs there. That was certainly the case heading into 2022 after a couple of middling years, at least by the very high standards set by his first two crops.
Put simply, Kingman’s third and fourth crops have so far been unable to replicate the success of those which came before them. The previous table underlines that point when you consider that all but one of Kingman’s 10 best horses to date came from either his first or second crop.
The only exception is the Japanese-trained Schnell Meister, a high-class performer from Kingman’s third crop. He became his sire’s fourth individual Group/Grade One winner in last year’s NHK Mile Cup and was last seen filling the runner-up spot in the Yasuda Kinen in June.
In Britain and Ireland, Kingman’s third crop featured just one two-year-old who won at Listed level or above in 2020, namely the Roger Charlton-trained Listed winner Love Is You.
Their achievements since then haven’t been much to write home about either. Indeed, still the only member of that crop to have won in Group company in Britain and Ireland is Megallan, twice a Group Three winner in last year’s Sovereign Stakes and this year’s Diomed Stakes.
It’s been a similar story with Kingman’s fourth crop so far. Noble Truth, trained by Charlie Appleby, is the standout among those trained in Britain and Ireland, a Listed winner and Group One-placed as a two-year-old in 2021. He has progressed further this year, gaining a second Listed success at Newmarket in April before following up in the Group Three Jersey Stakes.
Noble Truth has been very much in the minority, though, and it’s worth focusing on Kingman’s overall results with his two-year-olds last year which highlight the extent to which things dipped. For context, Kingman sired only 11 individual two-year-old winners in Britain and Ireland in 2021, down from 18 in 2018, 23 in 2019 and 24 in 2020.
Of course, Kingman is far from alone in this regard and it’s common for a stallion to go through a lull with their third and fourth crops. All eyes are on them when they first retire to stud, but the novelty soon wears off and breeders tend to turn their attentions to the new intake of stallions each year in their search for value.
That leaves a stallion in their third or fourth year at stud in the bloodstock equivalent of purgatory, no longer a new recruit to the breeding sheds but still waiting for those first runners to hit the track to prove they have what it takes to make a success of their second career.
It can happen to even the very best. Just look at Frankel, who was crowned the leading sire in Britain and Ireland for the first time in 2021.
Frankel’s first crop to reach the racecourse in 2016 featured 15 individual two-year-old winners in Britain and Ireland, a total he matched with his second crop in 2017. However, Frankel then endured a quieter time with his two-year-olds over the next couple of years, with nine winners in his third crop in 2018 and 10 winners in his fourth crop in 2019.
It was only after breeders saw the success Frankel had with his first two-year-olds that he stopped the slide. He then had 19 winners in his fifth crop in 2020 (conceived in 2017 at a fee of £125,000) and 18 winners in his sixth crop in 2021 (conceived in 2018 at an increased fee of £175,000).
It’s still relatively early days in 2022, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Kingman’s fifth crop – conceived in 2019 after his first two-year-olds had made such a big impression – could well be his best yet.
Kingman has already sired 10 individual two-year-old winners in Britain and Ireland in 2022, headed by the Appleby-trained Noble Style (110p), who made it two from two with a comfortable victory in a novice event at Newmarket last week (watch the replay below).
It was good to see Noble Style back on track after a setback following his debut win forced him to miss Royal Ascot and there should be more to come from him as he gains in experience.
Only Bradsell (114p) is rated higher among the two-year-olds we’ve seen so far this season and Noble Style, whom Godolphin bought for 525,000 guineas as a yearling, seems sure to be winning pattern races sooner rather than later, perhaps even destined for the top of the two-year-old tree by the end of the season.
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Appleby also trains Highbank (98P), a most impressive debut winner at Newmarket last month, and Modern Dancer (85p), who looked a good prospect in his own right when making a successful debut at Doncaster in June. Both horses are likely to progress further, perhaps significantly so in the case of Highbank, who was a 750,000-guineas purchase as a yearling.
Tough Talk (103p) and Age of Kings (100) are both Group-placed in Ireland already, while it’s surely just a matter of time before Epictetus (100p) is making an impact in that company judged on his debut success at Newmarket’s July Festival, just needing to be kept up to his work late on to beat another promising son of Kingman, Leadman (96p), by a length and a quarter.
Epictetus is trained by John and Thady Gosden, who also unleashed an exciting daughter of Kingman last week when Commissioning (96P) dismissed her rivals in a novice event at Newmarket, finding a good turn of foot to land the spoils by three and a half lengths from the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Prepense (83p), a full sister to Headman. Commissioning will stay at least a mile and is open to significant improvement.
Another to look out for is Prepense’s stablemate Nostrum (93p), who made the perfect start to his career at Sandown last month despite looking to be carrying condition and showing signs of greenness beforehand. He proved rather more clued up in the race itself, just needing to be pushed out to win by three lengths in the style of one destined for bigger and better things.
Overall, Kingman’s two-year-olds to have run in Britain and Ireland so far this season have an average Timeform rating of 78.72. That is up from 72.51 in 2018, 75.48 in 2019, 73.35 in 2020 and 69.49 in 2021, so the figures do nothing to dispel the theory that this could be Kingman’s best crop of two-year-olds to date.
Kingman reportedly has over 190 beautifully bred two-year-olds to represent him this year, so there remains plenty we still haven’t even seen yet.
The Gosdens' Clarehaven Stables is where several of them are based, including a colt out of the 1000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern named Apolo, a full sister to Calyx named Coppice, a half-brother to the Lancashire Oaks winner Horseplay named Tony Montana and a half-brother to the Fillies’ And Mares’ Stakes winner Journey named Torito.
Others to look out for include a daughter of Crystal Capella named A Capella Queen, trained by Stoute (like her dam), and a son of Horseplay named City of Kings who cost 350,000 guineas as a yearling. He is in training with Appleby and has been declared in a maiden on Friday’s card at Newmarket.
Later on this month, Noble Style is reportedly on course for the Group Two Gimcrack Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival, while the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown – a race Kingman won himself nearly nine years ago – was nominated as a potential target for Highbank after his debut win.
It certainly has the makings of a big month for Kingman and perhaps an even bigger year as we wait for the next Palace Pier or Persian King to emerge to consolidate his position among Europe’s elite in the stallion ranks.
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